[META] Basic frameworks for faction balance

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This post was made mostly in response to other balance posts I’ve seen on the forums, which tend to focus on specific imbalances in individual units and don’t take into account the totality or ‘big picture’ of the balance between factions when making balance suggestions, and should describe the baseline assumptions that need to be considered when making a balance suggestion.

The various factions have different power budgets which are allotted in various areas of their tech trees. Balance, in my view, should mainly be done by considering the interaction of the set of advantages and disadvantages all the factions have on a representative set of maps, based solely on the highest possible level of 1v1 and then teamgame play. Typically, in high level games, a faction pick for a given map is decided by a specific advantage or set of advantages that faction has over other factions for that specific map.

Let us take a look at some maps for some concrete examples of each faction’s strengths. I tried to find games with non-mirror matchups from tournaments that demonstrate the strength of the particular faction. Of course, there is imbalance in skill between players that can account for how specific games turn out, but overall the faction balance should be correct.

UEF on crazyrush
See #12729015, Nexus- vs archsimkat
· UEF is heavily favored on crazyrush specifically for sparkies (for nice t2 pd+t2 arty), scorcher/janus (to crush all the mexes/pgens), ravagers, and nice t3 land.

Seraphim on Crossfire Canal
See #13059258, archsimkat vs ZLO
· Seraphim is heavily favored on crossfire because of floating t1 arty cancer. Decent floating t2 tanks and flak are also relevant considerations to keep in mind.

Aeon on Badlands
See #1336249, Blast_ vs Petric
· A large amount of Aeon’s power budget is allocated into chrono, which is currently very very strong. On maps like Badlands as Aeon, you would go into the game with a plan to go chrono.

Cybran on Painted Desert
See #12728714, TURBO2 vs BlinChik
· Cybran is favored on Painted because of the speed of the mantis and loyalist, as well as stealthed t3 strat bomber (to kill all the t2 mexes).

With these examples in mind, any balance discussion should include a discussion of the overall faction balance beyond a specific unit for a set of maps. Maps can also be grouped together in a similar way: e.g., Crossfire and Point of Reach are similar maps in terms of the factional advantages and disadvantages; Painted Desert and the Ditch are similar, etc. Interestingly, this leaves room to allow for balance to be done by maps alone, but that’s a discussion for another time.

An example of one such balance suggestion based on the examples listed that fulfills this criteria would be to rebalance the Aeon power budget by giving its T1 MAA, the Thistle, the ability to hover, giving Aeon a stronger favorability on hover cancer maps like Crossfire (which will probably still be sera favored), while nerfing the chrono dampener somewhat + slight buffs for the obsidian, to reduce the obscene amount of power budget in chrono while still keeping aeon competitive in the t2 stage. This is just the most rough first draft example I could come up with that uses these criteria, so don’t take this suggestion too seriously, the point of this post is more about laying the groundwork for future balance discussion.

Hopefully this post can help provide a framework to better understand faction balance, provide a springboard for ideas for faction balance (in terms of both identifying issues and presenting solutions), and lead to better quality balance posts overall. If people disagree with any of the points I raised, feel free to discuss below but please point out the fundamental assumptions you have, like I did in this post, when you respond.

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It's pretty debatable on Phim vs UEF for crazyrush. Phim t3 mix is stronger than UEF, especially on such a map absent of terrain features. Ilshie + zthuee is also quite powerful here. Their shields, both stationary and mobile, are also quite powerful as is their t2 arty due to its accuracy. The map's lack of terrain also makes their t2 pd very strong with dealing with the t1 spam that constantly comes.

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Here's a replay of me as UEF vs Petric as Seraphim: #12940483. KI think I demonstrate the strength of UEF over Sera against an arguably much stronger player. Zthuees imo are actually not that great, since they cost so much and are so squishy. I would rate lobo and zthuee about equal here. Phim t3 mix is superior in a clean fight vs UEF t3 mix, but the snipers/shields are very easily picked off with t1/t2 bombers and t2 arty, which you do see in this game. I forgot to mention that the parashield was also really strong here, adding another reason to favor UEF, although that was pre-nerf. T2 pd is mostly relevant in the earlier stages of the game, where the sparky advantage again favors UEF. Again though, these things are debatable. There are definitely pros and cons to each faction, and I think we would agree that UEF and Phim are the clear top 2 factions for this map.

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I think in team games , specific faction balance is not so much of a problem, because of engi sharing, but is definitely an issue in say ladder where the pool is limited and you can end up with some very unfair matchups due to certain maps heavily favouring certain factions.

I think having t1 mma hover for Aeon would make them to strong as the big counter to aeon hover spam on island maps for Cybran/Uef is bombers until sufficient frigs are up.

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@archsimkat said in [META] Basic frameworks for faction balance:

Here's a replay of me as UEF vs Petric as Seraphim: #12940483. KI think I demonstrate the strength of UEF over Sera against an arguably much stronger player.

No you don't. All i see is a crippled petric playing crippled for the entire game. If he was UEF the game would've gone the exact same way.

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The OP hints at what is an intractable problem: Assuming 1) Factions are different and 2) Maps are different then it logically follows that 3) Some factions will be better than others on some maps.

(Note that you can replace "faction" with "tech level" or "land/air/sea" and the rules remain true.)

Therefore, "balance" as a concept depends upon which maps the community prefers to play and which strategies and tactics the community likes to see most often. Consider , perhaps, what a good map set for consideration is, or what a hypothetical perfect map looks like.

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One day i asked turbo: when do you think is a good timing for t2 or t3 tech switch in terms of mass income. He said: err I dunno I just see how the game is going and decide. (How much pressure by opponent, air navy, reclaim control bla bler blur)
Now I personally feel the same about balance. The game is so complex that you cant come up with a framework that accurately explains perfect balance and how one change shifts other areas. For that to work the framework would need to he so complex it becomes unuseable or is impossible to conceive.
I think the best way to conduct balance is an informed discussion by people adept at the game with a good feeling for the game, which is obviously highest correlated with ladder rating. I think the top players have a pretty good Feeling for how reasonable changes are and what the current problems are. A balanced discussion by multiple people should cancel out individual preferences or favouritism of play styles and units.

So instead of such framework i think what would help balance the most is to cut unskilled individuals from the discussion.

I.e. make balance invite only forum.

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